Editorial: Jacksonville offers holiday events that support families and the local economy
It’s that time of the year where people are wrapping up work projects in preparation for the new year. But it’s also time to relax and refresh with family and friends for the holidays. Thankfully, Jacksonville has many free and paid offerings to help you get into the holiday spirit.
Jacksonville has many community celebrations, light displays and performing arts productions that capture the holiday spirit in a uniquely vibrant way.
From traditional holiday events that fill the air with anticipation and excitement for the season and the upcoming year to new events, Northeast Florida residents are fortunate to live and work in a vibrant community.
When people take time to explore, they are supporting the local economy, whether it’s by stopping by a neighborhood restaurant or retail shop.
“Jacksonville’s holiday events offer something fun for families and visitors to experience and it positively impacts the local economy beyond the event itself,” said Andrea Mestdagh, marketing communications manager at Visit Jacksonville.
About 47 percent of visitors who come to Jacksonville during the holiday season come to visit friends and family, Mestdagh said.
“They plan nights out to see holiday displays like Deck the Chairs, and will then walk to happy hour or dinner at a nearby restaurant,“ she said.
Opportunities are vast. For instance, Deck the Chairs is an event that people have enjoyed since 2013. Lifeguard chairs are decorated in coastal-themed designs and lights by local, community organizations for the event in Jacksonville Beach.
The best part is that it’s a free and unique Duval County event that’s within walking distance of many businesses and restaurants.
The event was started in an effort to promote art in a public space and create opportunities for children’s arts education and outreach. It’s nightly from 5 pm to 1 am until New Year’s Day, and it’s also pet-friendly.
Dazzling Nights at the Jacksonville Arboretum & Gardens is a first-time event for our city. It’s an experience that includes a 30-foot-tall Christmas tree, lights on the ground that walk up as you walk on them, a forest filled with lights and fog, a 65-foot tunnel of lights, plus plenty of holiday music and some snow. It’s another great outdoor holiday event for the family, though advanced ticket purchases are required.
It’s always great to have new options, but it’s also wonderful to appreciate businesses like Kuhn Flowers that have dedicated more than 40 years to creating amazing Christmas displays in the window of its store at 3802 Beach Blvd.
There’s the 19-year-old Gingerbread House Extravaganza at Old St. Andrew’s Church and the ZOOLights at the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, an annual tradition where the zoo is transformed into a magical place full of lights, sound, and of course, nature.
While many events are run by nonprofits or businesses, it’s the neighbors in Blackhawk Bluff who create the magic there. Most of the houses in the neighborhood off Girvin Road in East Arlington are decked out in Christmas lights and festive displays. It’s a great outing for a car ride with the family after dinner, and It’s free each evening.
If all of that’s not enough, St. Augustine offers a one-of-a-kind holiday escape. Several years ago Nights of Lights was listed on National Geographic’s top 10 places in the world to view holiday lights.
Holiday celebration options are vast in the Jacksonville area. As individuals, despite hardships in our lives, we all still have a lot of reasons to express gratitude. Let’s add to our gratitude list the many volunteers, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that have made it a priority to play a role in trying to put smiles on the faces of residents and their visitors this holiday season.
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Jacksonville offers holiday events that support families and the economy
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